Released: 1986, Black Dragon
Hidden Gem - FROM THE VAULT
Due to a shortage of compelling new releases in metal, it is necessary to take a trip back in time to seek out some forgotten gems that will remind one of what makes metal so great. After a year of mind-numbingly bland releases, all rehashing and regurgitating metal trademarks to the point of mockery, it is good to get back to the real thing. For example, a trip to 1986 will uncover Seattle, Washington’s Heir Apparent and their landmark release, …GRACEFUL INHERITANCE, an incredibly adventurous metal offering that stands up today with some of the best the genre has produced.
After a short intro track, the album begins with a very moody, clean guitar, accompanied by a harmonized vocal delivery that leads to the dynamic kick-in-the-ass riff of “Another Candle.” Complimenting a galloping guitar riff are some extremely melodic vocals, reminding the listener of the higher register voice that Ray Alder once had. Singer Paul Davidson’s voice is nothing short of amazing, expertly going between a lower tone to a higher pitch (without approaching the extreme highs of someone like Geoff Tate), and it gives this album a unique sound. The compositions on the album, as a whole, are pure eighties, powerful metal, with some very progressive arrangements, making this a great fit for fans of eighties-era Fates Warning, Queensryche, and other bands of that ilk. “Tear Down the Walls” is a perfect song to showcase the overall ability of the band. Terry Gorle offers an impressive variety of guitar styles for just one song, ranging from the melodic beginning, complete with high-sustain, synth-sounding leads, to a Maiden-ish riff, all the way through an emotive, blistering solo and a progressive breakdown featuring some nice guitar and bass interplay ala Rush. On top of all this playing, there is one of the album’s most memorable choruses as well. “Hands of Destiny” is another incredible track. More mid-paced, the song has a nice groove to head bang along with, and the chorus is everything that a classic metal anthem should be – grandiose and powerful. Perhaps the masterpiece of the album comes in the track “Keeper of the Reign.” This is another track that excels at creating a mood as it begins like a melodic ballad then kicks into another heavy chorus. The bass guitar work of Derek Peace is great throughout the entire track, rising above the guitar distinctively at times during the verses and then leading the song into a kick ass breakdown where the whole song picks up pace. At times epic, and at other times just straight forward and heavy, …GRACEFUL INHERITANCE is an album that is incredibly diverse, encapsulating all of the hallmark’s of true metal in the eighties.
According to the band’s webpage, they seem to be deservedly proud of the fact that …GRACEFUL INHERITANCE is the highest reviewed album for the last 22 years in Germany’s Rock Hard magazine. Sadly, the band did not build much of a legacy following this album’s release. All the elements of a premiere metal band are present throughout this album. The guitar wizardry is there; the vocal power is there; the creativity is there; the anthemic choruses are there; unfortunately, though, Heir Apparent has been destined to the underground, resurfacing this decade to do some shows and attempt to get a new album out. Fans of the classic metal sound of the eighties who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing this epic album should take the time to hunt down this masterpiece today.
Other Classic Cuts: “Masters of Invasion,” “The Servant,” and “Dragon’s Lair”